Journey to The Middle Land – Spiti

Spiti? Never heard of this, where is it? These were my first thoughts followed by…. Let me Google it …..

And this was precisely the reaction for many when I mentioned that I was travelling to Spiti. So here is a little info from Wikipedia about this enchanting place.

The Spiti Valley is a desert mountain valley located high in the Himalaya mountains in the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The name “Spiti” means “The Middle Land”, i.e. the land between Tibet and India – Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiti_Valley

Credits

India Untravelled who organized this holiday through Spiti Ecosphere.

http://indiauntravelled.com

We visited the Spiti Ecosphere office in Kaza and met Ishita Khanna one of the co founders. She gave us an insight of the good work she and her team was doing in Spiti and she also explained how our travel helped sustain the economy of the people of Spiti.

http://www.spitiecosphere.com/

It was a Jeep Safari spanning across 9 days covering Kinnaur and Spiti. We were a bunch of 9 people from across the country who met each other for the first time at Shimla.

Here is a kaleidoscope of my favorite moments

Meeting the Goddess

Our first stop – The Bhima Kali temple in Sarahan village. Human sacrifices were carried out here till about the 18th century to please the goddess.

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Bhimakali Temple

The temple architecture was interesting with layers of stone and wood and seemed to have a Tibetan influence.

Sayin Hello to Tibet

Chitkul is rainy and cold when we arrive and is also the last village at the Indo Tibet border. There is nothing notable about the place, but visiting the last village should be good enough reason 🙂

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Don’t let the sun go down on me…..

It was still daylight in Racksham village at Sangla Valley, so we decided to do a short walk downhill to explore the area.

Sangla is one of the largest producers of the Kinnaur Apples and we saw several apple orchards during our walk.

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And then we became audiences to a beautiful sunset.

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Knockin On Heaven’s Door

Daybreak at 5 am. I could hear the sound of the streams from my room. I decided to step out and explore.

Ahead was the Baspa River. The river has bluish turquoise shades and cuts through the mountains making for spectacular views.

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The Sangla valley is blessed with effortless beauty and should be on your must explore itinerary.

Nako Lake Overivew

Nako is a small but pretty village which has a Gompa at its entrance and a small but scenic lake.

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Aum Mani Padme Hum

The old monastery of Tabo is said to be over a thousand years old. There are splendid frescos and murals of Buddha and Buddhism inside the monastery which need urgent restoration and care.

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Mornings begin as early as 5am in these parts as the locals prefer to start their day with prayers at the Tabo monastery. Listening to the monks chant made us feel peaceful and we ended the session with generous cups of butter tea 🙂

Just outside the village are a few old caves on the mountains which were used by monks to mediate. It is an easy climb so we hiked up the mountain to explore the caves.

The view from the top was worth the hike. We could see sweeping views of the Tabo monastery, the village houses, fields and farms and the Spiti River.

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Save Dhankhar

Dhankar was the erstwhile capital of Spiti and the monastery overlooks the Spiti – Pin confluence

This monastery too is around 1000 years old and is of religious significance. The landscape around Dhankar is grandiose and unlike anything that I ever saw before (loss of words)

Magical Lake

A steep upward trek leads us to the Dhankhar Lake. The way up was not difficult however the thin air made the climb arduous.

When we reached the top we were greeted by majestic wild horses. How cool is that?

The lake was a magical color of turquoise, green, blue…again loss of words to describe beauty.

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The trek up to the lake was worth it and should not be missed. The good part is, the descent down is cakewalk 🙂

Good Things Come In Small Packages

Rain and slight snowfall greeted us at Fukchung village. We had now entered the area where the population was getting sparse, but it was big on friendliness, hospitality and happiness.

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Everywhere we went people waved and smiled at us. On the road people stopped to wave and say “Julley” which is Hello or Welcome in Spiti 🙂

It was contagious and we reciprocated their smiles and cheer feeling great 🙂

At Home In Demul

We were to live in a traditional Spitian homestay at Demul. So we were looking forward to it. Our guide introduced us to our hosts who were warm and welcoming.

The homestay was neat, clean and simple. It had basic amenities to keep us warm and well taken care of.

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Typical house in Spiti

In Spiti the central place in every homestay is the kitchen as it has the fireplace and is the warmest place in the home. So we spent all of our waking hours in there with the rest of the family.

Dancing In Demul

We were excited, afterall we were about to watch a traditional Spitian dance. The dancers were all women who were beautifully attired in their traditional shawls and a lot of jewelry.

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They were accompanied by men playing drums and a type of shenai player.

After a while we joined them in their dance. The dance was indeed a good way to understand the culture of the people here.

Good Job!!

We also visited the local school in Demul and met the headmaster and the kids.

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These students belong to different grades but study together

Though the school was supported by the government we felt we could help by sending them educational material which could enhance their learning.

Yakking And Trekking

We were to hike through one the highest points in Spiti and if lucky spot some wildlife. How can I miss this opportunity. So layering myself to brave the cold I set out with my friends and guide for a 6 hour trek from Demul to Komic.

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Yaks to help us during our trek

We had yaks to help us incase we did not want to walk all the way and thank God for them as we needed them especially during the steep climbs.

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We trekked thru the highest point in Spiti at 4700 mts (approx 15k ft)

We also got lucky to see and follow the tracks of the snow leopard and we also saw blue sheep.

The trek was not all difficult terrain but again the thin air made us breathless with even a slight climb.

Finally Komic!!! We did it!!!

Breathless but feeling accomplished we reached Komic, the highest village in Asia and a pretty village too.

This time my hosts were a large family with two very cute and sweet kids.

The menu for the evening dinner was potato momos and soup. Given the blowing cold winds outside this was a welcome 🙂

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Our hosts at the homestay making potato momos

Sustainable tourism

Like most villages in Spiti, Demul and Komic are self-sustained villages. There is a sense of community work among villagers to get things done that benefit the entire village and that is commendable.

There are green houses run and managed by the villagers and they also use passive solar energy.

The homestay experience made me introspect about the difference in lifestyle between us city folks and the people of Spiti. They have very little to offer us but they give it with a smile from their heart and are genuine in their hospitality.

Mr. Postman at Hikkim

The post office at Hikkim is the highest in the world!!

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It was a simple post office only a small board outside made this announcement no frills or fancy to this. We sent post cards from here as a memento to this place, again cool stuff 🙂

Langza Village Overview

The special thing about Langza is the mighty statue of Bhuddha towering over the village.

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The Buddha at the left and the village below

In addition Langza is a picture perfect village, very pretty. I saw several contrasts with the green fields; brown mountains and the deep blue sky…hmmmm…seemed very poetic.

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The Shopaholic Awakens

We were almost done with our tour of Spiti and were in Kaza which is HQ of Spiti. Kaza is a small town which has some good shopping options. You can buy woolens, jewelry, good crockery that is popular with the locals, souvenirs, and traditional Buddhist items.

Food binge at the German Bakery it’s worth it 🙂

Kinner Kailash

We were at Kalpa on the last day of our trip. I woke up for a walk to watch the sunrise from the mountains.

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The apple trees with the Kinner Kailash range in the background

The chanting of monks coming from the nearby monastery through the loudspeaker kept me company.

The Essence Of Spiti

For me the essence of Spiti was experienced in many ways through:

1. People – Their Hospitality & Friendliness is genuine and so freely given to all 🙂

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2. Landscape and Rivers – The browns of the mountains complements the blues of the sky…you are never tired of looking at them. The Sutlej, Spiti and Pin rivers were our steady companions throughout.

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Offroading was the way we traveled throughout Spiti

3. Monasteries & Gompas & Prayer Flags  – The spirituality of the place and the people is reflected through the monasateries, gompas and prayer flags.

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Key Monastery

4. Food – Couldnt get enough of it. We were fed everywhere we went 🙂

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Momos, Thukpa, traditional Tibetan and Spitian food
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Chai was offered everywhere 🙂

5. Wildlife – Where can you see horses running free and wild? Do you know the Ibex and Blue Sheep? Have you seen the elusive snow leopard? Where can you find fossils of the sea on land? Or even see flora and fauna never seen before?

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Snow leopard pug mark, succulent plant, Ibex

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Wild bush, wild bird, wild horses… Yeah after all we’re in da wild 🙂

Spiti has all of these and a lot more to offer. If offbeat and unexplored is your kinda holiday, then Spiti should be on your list 🙂

Julley 🙂

More writeups on Spiti – Offbeat Spiti

 

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